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Eur Eat Disord Rev. 2011 Mar-Apr;19(2):112-20. doi: 10.1002/erv.1021.

A mediational model of self-esteem and social problem-solving in anorexia nervosa.

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NHS Tayside Eating Disorders Service, Tayside, Scotland, UK.



Poor problem-solving and low self-esteem are frequently cited as significant factors in the development and maintenance of anorexia nervosa. The current study examines the multi-dimensional elements of these measures and postulates a model whereby self-esteem mediates the relationship between social problems-solving and anorexic pathology and considers the implications of this pathway.


Fifty-five inpatients with a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa and 50 non-clinical controls completed three standardised multi-dimensional questionnaires pertaining to social problem-solving, self-esteem and eating pathology.


Significant differences were yielded between clinical and non-clinical samples on all measures. Within the clinical group, elements of social problem-solving most significant to anorexic pathology were positive problem orientation, negative problem orientation and avoidance. Components of self-esteem most significant to anorexic pathology were eating, weight and shape concern but not eating restraint. The mediational model was upheld with social problem-solving impacting on anorexic pathology through the existence of low self-esteem.


Problem orientation, that is, the cognitive processes of social problem-solving appear to be more significant than problem-solving methods in individuals with anorexia nervosa. Negative perceptions of eating, weight and shape appear to impact on low self-esteem but level of restriction does not. Finally, results indicate that self-esteem is a significant factor in the development and execution of positive or negative social problem-solving in individuals with anorexia nervosa by mediating the relationship between those two variables.


anorexia nervosa; self-esteem; social problem-solving

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